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The Cherry Street Tavern

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Location: 129 N 22nd St (Cherry Street) Philadelphia, PA 19103 / A pub in the centre of Philadelphia.

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      06.11.2010 19:24
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      An extraordinarly friendly bar near the Mutter Museum in Philly.

      For years, I thought the US didn't have a pub culture. I thought that there were restaurants, which were expensive and trendy, and bars, which were seedy and dirty. This may have been true at one time, but it is clearly no longer true. The Cherry Street Tavern, on the corner of 22nd Street and Cherry Street, near the Mütter Museum, in Philadelphia proves that this is not the case.

      Philadelphia is unusual in that there are true residential areas within the city centre. The area around the pub consists of little terraced houses, one of which has a gas lamp burning, apparently at all hours of day and night. There is even a petite, yet clean and fun-looking children's playground opposite the pub. What this means for the Cherry Street Tavern is that it is a true locals pub - something you can struggle to find in a city centre.

      We found ourselves there following a tour of Philadelphia's City Hall (well worth doing). We then planned to walk to the Mütter Museum (a fun, if macabre Victorian medical museum). First, however, we wanted some lunch. One Google search later, we head off to the corner of Cherry Street and 22nd, for a pint and a sandwich.

      From the outside, the Cherry Street Tavern does indeed look like a locals pub, and may not be the first place you'd think of entering as a tourist. The pub is right on the corner, so turns the corner. The obvious door in the corner is not the door you need; you need to go down Cherry Street and find the entrance there.

      Once in, you'll see a long-ish bar, with backed bar stools sitting there. The pub is quite dark, as there are very few windows. There are two old-fashioned cathode ray tube televisions in the corners, both showing sport. There is a dip, or trough between the stools and the bar. Wiki tells me this was once a urinal; I have my doubts. In any case, there are also a number of tables scattered about the bar. I saw no-one sitting at them. There is also a back room, brightly lit (compared to the bar) with a flat screen television, also showing sport. Mercifully, all the televisions were muted. There is a jukebox, which is quite cool. It's connected to the internet, so can play pretty much any song available. Having told Gina (the bar person - more on that in a minute) that my daughter's boyfriend plays with Marina and the Diamonds, she immediately put some of Marina's music on. I am a kid at heart; I found that nifty. There are sports' posters on the walls, both national, local and high school. It's slightly eclectic, clean and whilst not 'posh' in any way, it was very convivial.

      There was a good selection of beer - around six or seven on tap, and maybe double that in bottles. Again, typically, there are both craft, micro-brewery brewed beers and the blander American offers. We started with a couple of pints of the craft brewed (I had Flying Fish, I forget what my husband had) and a hoagie each. The hoagies (kind of like a hero - think a better, more home-made, less cardboard-y version of Subway) were freshly made and tasty. We watched an older man make them in front of us - even cutting the tomato to order. Two pints each and a large hoagie each cost us around $35.00. The beer was fresh and cold (though not too cold), and, by Philadelphia standards, cheap at $4.50 a 16 fl oz pint. The ladies room was clean, a single person type, and unremarkable.

      So far, so good. What turned the Cherry Street Tavern from a temporary diversion on the way to a museum to a whole afternoon out (forcing us to miss the museum!) was the incredibly warm welcome we received. Needless to say, our accents (and yes, despite my American origins, many Americans think I sound British. Not a single British person thinks the same) created comments. The pub is clearly a local pub, peopled by characters such as Lacy (a Welsh/American Philly's fan), Catfish (complete with fishing waistcoat) and others whose names I didn't catch. Gina, the bar person is a warm, intelligent, fun and friendly person. She introduced us to each of the locals as they came in, and even bought us a round. By the time we left, we felt like we were locals there, and certainly hope to re-visit before we leave the States.

      We have visited a number of pubs/restaurants/bars in the US, and have, admittedly, been welcomed in all of them. But we have never felt so at home in any, until now. Highly recommended - tell them Kate from London sent you.

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